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Drill Rig Operator

Certification Overview

The NCCCO Dill Rig Operator Task Force that developed this certification program was made up of experts from all aspects of the industry—operators, users, trainers, safety supervisors, manufacturers—who together represent many thousands of hours of related experience. These volunteers gave freely of their time and expertise with the primary goal of improving the safety of all whose work brings them into contact with foundation drill rigs and anchor/micropile drill rigs.


Visit How to Test for instructions on applying for and taking CCO Written and Practical Exams; visit How to Recertify for instructions on recertification.

Complete instructions and exam applications are also contained in the Candidate Handbook for each program.


To be eligible for certification, you must:

  • Be at least 18 years of age
  • Meet medical requirements
  • Comply with NCCCO’s Substance Abuse Policy
  • Pass a Written Examination
  • Pass a Practical Examination
  • Comply with the NCCCO Code of Ethics


CCO certification exams are designed for operators who are trained and who currently work in drill rig operation.


Certified drill rig operators must continue to meet NCCCO’s physical requirements throughout their certification period and attest to their agreement to this requirement in their applications.

In appropriate circumstances, means of compliance with these physical requirements may include, but are not limited to, a current Department of Transportation (DOT) Medical Examiner’s Certificate.


The Drill Rig Operator Written Examination consists of a Core Examination in drill rig operation and up to two drill rig Specialty Examinations. Certification requires competency in both the Core and one or both Specialty designations.

The Core Examination has 90 multiple-choice questions. Candidates are allowed 90 minutes to complete the examination. Each Specialty Examination consists of 45 multiple-choice questions; candidates are allowed 45 minutes to complete each Specialty Examination.

The CCO Written Specialty Examinations are:

  • Foundation Drill Rig (FDR)
  • Anchor/Micropile Drill Rig (AMP)

All candidates are required to take the Core Examination, regardless of the Specialty(s) in which they wish to be certified.

The Drill Rig Operator written examination fees are:

  • Drill Rig Core Exam: $150
  • Foundation Drill Rig Specialty Exam: $50
  • Anchor/Micropile Drill Rig Specialty Exam: $50


The Drill Rig Operator Practical Examinations demonstrate drill rig operation proficiency and are available for two drill rig types:

  • Foundation Drill Rig (FDR)
  • Anchor/Micropile Drill Rig (AMP)

A candidate must pass the Written Examinations (Core + Specialty) as well as the Practical Exam that corresponds with the written Specialty taken to be certified for a five-year period.

Candidates may take the Practical Examination on either or both of the drill rig types, provided they have passed/will pass the Written Examination for the corresponding designation within the 12-month time frame.

The Practical Examinations comprise tasks designed to assess the specific operating skills necessary for each type of drill rig operations. Foundation Drill Rig Operator skills tested include: inspecting the equipment, site safety protocols, identifying operational controls, picking up and laying down pipe, tool positioning, drilling, and safe shutdown/securing. Anchor/Micropile Drill Rig Operator skills tested include: inspecting the equipment, forward and reverse travel, vertical drill steel joint, angled and vertical drill steel placement, and safe shutdown/securing.

The Drill Rig Operator practical examination fees are:

  • Foundation Drill Rig: $100
  • Anchor/Micropile Drill Rig: $100

The appropriate fees must be submitted with the practical exam application through the Test Site Coordinator. The same fees apply for retest exams. Learn more about the NCCCO Practical Exam process.


Candidates must pass both Written and Practical Examinations to be certified for a five-year period. The Written and Practical Exams may be taken in either order. Candidates have 12 months from the time they pass their first Written or Practical Exam for each equipment type in which to pass the corresponding (Written or Practical) Exam.

Any tests passed within a 12-month period count towards certification. For example, a candidate who passes the Drill Rig Operator Core Written Exam but fails the Foundation Drill Rig Specialty Exam in January 2019 and then passes the Foundation Drill Rig Operator Practical Exam in June 2019 has until January 2020 to retake and pass the Foundation Drill Rig Operator Specialty Written Exam.

If a certified operator subsequently becomes certified in an additional operator designation by taking the appropriate written and practical exams, the certification period for the additional designation expires at the same time his/her original certification (i.e., all operator designations expire on the same date, regardless of when in the five-year certification period the candidate passed them). If the new designation is added within the final 24 months of his/her certification period, the certificant is exempt from recertifying for the new designation after five years; after that, however, certificants must recertify for all designations during the 12 months prior to their certifications’ expiration date. This ensures that all of the certificant’s operator designations maintain the same expiration date.

Candidates for certification or recertification may petition for an extension of NCCCO’s standard timeline(s). NCCCO staff shall have the discretion to make the initial determination of whether a requested extension should be granted. Petitions for an extension of time are generally denied absent a showing of extraordinary circumstances. Denials of such petitions may be appealed to the Appeals Committee.


The following policies apply to all CCO certification programs:

These policies are also covered in the Candidate Handbooks for each program.


Certified operators receive a laminated photo ID card at no cost when they certify for the first time and when they complete the requirements for recertification.

Replacement cards, cards showing certification in an additional designation, or updated cards for candidates who retake and pass a designation they previously failed may be obtained from NCCCO at a cost of $25. Cards may be ordered online or by contacting Jennifer Warner at jwarner@nccco.org or 727-449-8525.

Certification cards remain the property of NCCCO, are not transferable, and must be returned to NCCCO upon demand.


NCCCO certification is valid for five years. Recertification candidates must complete all recertification requirements during the 12 months prior to their certification’s expiration date. This includes:

Candidates who can attest to at least 500 hours of actual operating experience on drill rigs during their period of certification do not need to take a Practical Exam to recertify.

Get complete instructions on How to Recertify.